Our journey today in the eleventh chapter of Mark brings us to the point where the tension between Jesus and the religious authorities of His day reach a boiling point. Already, the Chief Priests feel they have to stop this Jesus. They fear His influence on people. They fear this could result in a loss of revenue for them. Politically, they begin to fear for their already precarious position with Rome. And greater still, as leaders of Judaism, they had fears that this Jesus was misleading people away from the coming Messiah.
- Mark 11:1-10 – Jesus enters Jerusalem with Triumphal Fanfare
- Mark 11:11-14, 20-26 – Jesus and a misleading Fig Tree
- Mark 11:15-19 – Jesus clears the Temple of Avarice
- Mark 11:27-33 – Jesus’ Authority, where does it come from?
For our walk today we focus on Jesus and the events at the Temple, “And they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. And he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. And he was teaching them and saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.” And the chief priests and the scribes heard it and were seeking a way to destroy him, for they feared him, because all the crowd was astonished at his teaching. And when evening came they went out of the city.” Mark 11:15-19
We walk into the temple area known as the Court of Gentiles this is the open courtyard of the Temple. It is here that all people of all backgrounds and ethnicities can gather. Only Jews can proceed deeper into the temple, only priests can enter the Holy Place, and the High Priest alone can enter the Most Holy Place. The courtyard comprises the greater part of the approximately thirty acres of the Temple area.
By the time Jesus is ministering and proclaiming the coming Kingdom, this area of the Temple had become a market place, a bazaar, a giant yard sale, and stockyard. Here we come to be in the Temple, the place where God met with His people, where His people came to be nearer to Him. Here we are to worship and here we find, not God, but a market place – not a Publix or a Winn Dixie, but a market place like you would find in third world countries in our current world. Vendors are yelling from their tents and cubicles selling their wares. Pigeons are . . . doing what pigeons do. Animals are grunting, mooing, bleating, eating, and eliminating waste. We come to meet God and we meet the smells of dirty dusty animals and people. The atmosphere was less than conducive to worship.
Along with the disciples, we are trying to take all of this in, when we see Jesus. He seems to be too quiet and we can tell He is in deep thought. All of the sudden, Jesus cannot take it anymore! He seizes the moment. He overturns the tables of money changers and merchants. Coins roll across the courtyard, animals flee for safety, pigeons fly to the top of the walls, feathers flying as they escape. Jesus turns around those who using the Temple area as a short-cut to the other side of Jerusalem.
Jesus reminds them of the messages of the prophets:
“ . . . will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples” Isaiah 56:7.
“Has this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your eyes? Behold, I myself have seen it, declares the LORD” Jeremiah 7:11.
What can we learn from these events?
We begin understanding that the Church (gathered Christians) is the Temple today. “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit” Ephesians 2:19-22. The Church is:
- A Group Religion
- For salvation of the lost
- For Spiritual Worship in His Name
- Not a set of religious programs
- Not a society or country club
- Not business
But we also notice that each individual Christian is a Temple of God in his/her own right. “Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body”1 Corinthians 6:18-20.
- Do not sell yourself to sin.
- Do not see yourself to the world.
- Do not sell out to materialism.
- Keep focused on God (cf. Rom 12:1-2)